The resignation of the deputy mayor of London, Ont., after an affair with the mayor appears to have been motivated by embarrassment rather than wrongdoing in office, a business ethicist said Wednesday.
London is an extremely conservative town but it’s unclear why a private matter became public fodder, said Colin Boyd, professor emeritus with the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan.
“I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the council at all,” Boyd said from Comox, B.C. “The only thing that would matter to the council is if their relationship had in some way interfered with the professional judgments.”
Late Tuesday, Mayor Matt Brown said he was temporarily stepping aside after admitting to an affair with Deputy Mayor Maureen Cassidy.
Brown said they had developed “a close working relationship and ultimately an inappropriate personal relationship.”
Earlier in the day, Cassidy resigned as deputy mayor and used a news conference to appeal for privacy as she worked with her family to “rebuild the trust that has been broken.”
Both Brown and Cassidy said they regretted the pain and embarrassment they had caused their families, with Brown saying his wife was extremely angry with him when he told her of the affair.
While Boyd said he saw no need for the resignation, he did say politicians face greater scrutiny than others.
“In that regard, every politician who makes a move towards something which might be talked about in the press has got to be careful, and has to have a thick shell to deal with it,” Boyd said.
Workplace experts say a significant number of romantic relationships originate in the workplace and, in general, it’s no one’s business when such relationships take root. An exception would be when there’s a power imbalance – such as when a superior is having a fling with a subordinate and the relationship might be coercive – or when the dalliance starts to affect their professional life.
In addition, politicians who thump family values as a way to win votes are especially vulnerable if then caught in inappropriate behaviour, said Bruce Baker, a management consultant in Edmonton.
“It amplifies the optics of the situation,” Baker said. “It’s always surprising what people think they can get away with.”
Brown said he would be meeting with the integrity commissioner on Thursday, and would abide by any recommendations or decisions the commissioner makes.
At the same time, he said he did not believe the relationship resulted in any breach of his professional responsibilities as mayor.
“I intend to spend more time with my children and my wife in the coming weeks,” Brown said. “I’m taking some time away over the next little while and I will return to my other duties when we’re ready.”
Cassidy said she could “never apologize enough” to her family for allowing her relationship with the mayor to cross “a professional boundary.”